Photo courtesy of the artist.
Philip Dizack, one of the most sought-after trumpeters in New York these days, plays and writes with rare maturity and clarity. Having recorded several critically-acclaimed albums, Dizack maintains a full schedule of collaborations and commissions. Always thoughtful and aware of his predilections and predispositions, Dizack has been discussing his musical approach for years, as can be seen in this piece by NPR. We caught up on the phone and talked about how he approaches challenges, chips away at musical obstacles, and cultivates collaborations.
The Jazz Gallery: You played on Ben van Gelder’s Among Verticals album release at The Jazz Gallery. That was a great project, do you play with Ben often?
Philip Dizack: Let’s see, the first gig I ever did with Ben was with Melissa Aldana and Glenn Zaleski’s Sextet at The Jazz Gallery. He asked me to do his recording project and CD release. We’ve known about each other for a long time, but I didn’t get to know him personally until this past year. I went to hear him play recently. He’s one of these people where, if I’m not working, I definitely don’t stay at home. I always want to hear my heroes and contemporaries, people I admire greatly, and I always go if I have the opportunity.
TJG: Over the summer you were touring on the west coast and in Europe with a number of different artists—Kyle Poole, Dayna Stephens, Billy Childs, Myron Walden, and so on. How do you manage your busy schedule?
PD: For New York musicians, we’re always trying to have a busy schedule [laughs]. It’s not so much an issue of managing the schedule as it is an issue of managing sleep, dedication, and focus. There’s always a trade-off somewhere, and generally it errs on the side of no sleep [laughs]. For anybody really striving to create something of their own, and to be a part of something they care about, it’s like having your own baby. You have to sacrifice things because you care so much about what you’re doing. The sacrifices aren’t really “sacrifices,” and managing your schedule isn’t really “managing your schedule.” Those things you do are really about striving to have the most beautiful experiences you can as an artist.
TJG: Have you ever struggled with burnout?
PD: In terms of emotional burnout or lack of interest, I think there’s a season for everything. Have I really experienced burnout? No. But I’ve found myself in situations where I didn’t know exactly what my purpose was. Those situations have helped to clarify the things I care about. I’ve never gotten burned out on the overarching goal or passion, but I have experienced indicators of things I may not want to do, and those helped push me in the right direction. It’s not often that you find yourself in a position with consistency, variety, spontaneity, a feeling of importance and connection. When all of those things coalesce, you end up with a feeling of purpose in the moment. Those privileged moments have shaped and revealed who I am.
TJG: You’ve written that the discovery of Miles Davis at a young age was particularly formative for you, as it tends to be for young jazz musicians. What do you think it is about Davis’ language and approach that appeals to developing musicians?
PD: I think what was behind his playing, his story, was most important. His identity as a person and a musical actor was the most prolific thing about him, which is why he experimented and ventured into other art forms. He also paid attention to details which are mostly neglected. Everything he’s doing seems very simple, to the point that so many people can copy it. But to create it for the first time, that’s something. Anyone else just sounds like a copy of Miles. There’s a whole essence that’s missing when you copy it. There’s a depth to who he was as a person and as an artist that manifested itself in anything he did in music. Kind of Blue is a perfect example. Everyone has heard the record a hundred thousand times, bur if you listen to “Blue In Green,” it’s still unbelievable. You’re connected to it every time. He has an emotional connection that most musicians haven’t found. Not that I can claim otherwise, but most musicians have a hard time getting past the laundry list of theoretical and technical hurdles that we have to overcome and work on.